Burke resigns as Hammond basketball coach after 17 years

April 13, 1994|By Rick Belz | Rick Belz,Sun Staff Writer

Disgruntled Hammond boys basketball fans and players won't have Jack Burke to blame if the Bears have another subpar season.

The 17-year veteran resigned from his coaching position March 25 after a tumultuous season in which the Bears lost their last nine games and finished with a 6-16 record.

The Bears also finished without their two best players, Devon Montoute and Irving Conwell, who were dismissed from the team for disciplinary reasons.

Former Hammond head coach Mike Mongelli is considered the leading candidate to replace Burke.

"We have a quality person within the building who has applied for the job and with whom I feel comfortable," Hammond principal Marshall Peterson said.

An official announcement of Mongelli's appointment couldn't be made until after the vacancy has been advertised for the mandatory period.

"I would like to see Michael get it," said Burke, who was once

Mongelli's assistant coach.

Peterson said: "Jack did a great job and works hard as both a coach and a teacher. But he's got young kids and family, and coaching in America is not the easiest thing to do these days. It's probably not the kind of thing you want to do for 20 years."

Burke, 40, spent nine of those 17 coaching seasons as varsity boys head coach, and eight as assistant coach. He quits with a 133-78 head-coaching record that includes one county championship and two regional championships.

His teams posted winning records and made the playoffs in seven of those nine seasons. Twice the Bears lost in the state finals and twice in regional finals.

The Bears were unexpected county co-champions in the 1992-1993 season and Burke was The Baltimore Sun's Howard County Coach of the Year.

"That was a bunch of over-achievers," he said.

But this year's team was battered by the transfer of three star players before the season began.

Burke had scheduled several powerful non-league opponents, hoping to showcase those players, and without them the Bears struggled to a 2-6 non-league record.

The team appeared to right itself by winning four of its first six league games, but it never won again -- losing nine straight.

Hammond wasn't the only basketball team beset with turmoil. Turmoil reigned throughout the league and included a brawl between Oakland Mills and Mount Hebron in which a Mount Hebron coach was beaten up.

Two other coaches were punched by fans in separate incidents. At least seven players were dismissed from their teams for disciplinary reasons.

Burke, a locker-room philosopher with an active sense of humor who was always ready with a colorful quote or insightful comment, decried what was happening around the league and at his school.

He said he was tired of parents who would come into a locker room and give him a hard time in front of the players.

He was frustrated that he couldn't make daily study hall mandatory at Hammond because of county regulations.

And he was turned off by rebellious players who would rebuke him with comments such as: "You're messing with my game."

"The turmoil this season had a lot to do with my decision to quit," said Burke, a self-described basketball fanatic who said he will miss the camaraderie and the competition.

"I've done it for so long that it's a part of me."

A family crisis was another factor that influenced his decision. He was informed during a game against Glenelg that his father had had a stroke and was in the hospital.

"I had to decide what to do, leave the game and go to the hospital, or finish the game and then go to the hospital. I finished the game," he said.

It later bothered him that he had put basketball ahead of his family.

"Now I'll have time to make my daughter's recitals and other family events," he said.

"I'm hopefully not riding off into the sunset forever, but I needed a timeout. Maybe in four or five years I'll be back. We ran a decent program that emphasized academics. We tried to produce good people. We got some kids into colleges with some scholarship money and had a good time doing it. It's been a good run."

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